Bill Gates’ Unusual Arrangement With Ex-Girlfriend Ann Winblad Was Approved by Melinda Gates.
Prior to marrying Melinda French in 1994, Bill Gates dated Ann Winblad, a software developer and venture capitalist. However, even after marrying Melinda, Bill reportedly agreed with his wife to continue seeing Winblad for an annual weekend getaway.
Bill and Winblad began dating in 1984 and became friends over their shared interest in science. They maintained contact after their 1987 split, according to Walter Isaacson’s 1997 Time profile of Bill.
“Even now, Gates has worked out a deal with his wife to ensure that he and Winblad will continue one vacation tradition,” Isaacson wrote in 1997. “Every spring, Gates and Winblad spend a long weekend at her beach cottage on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where they ride dune buggies, hang glide, and stroll on the beach.”
Bill told Isaacson that they would engage in a game of “putt-putt” when discussing biotechnology. According to Winblad, the two would explore the world around them and “revel in how, as two young overachievers, we embarked on a great adventure on the outskirts of a little-known industry and ended up at the core of an incredible universe.”
It is unknown if the tradition persisted after 1997. Ann Winblad and Bill and Melinda Gates were contacted by Newsweek for comment but did not receive a response in time for release.
Winblad and Bill started their courtship with “virtual dates,” in which they drove to the same movie in separate cities at the same time and discussed it on their mobile phones. Isaacson referred to them as “kindred spirits” who relished the opportunity to spend their vacations learning about science.
They allegedly studied bioengineering together in Brazil after Bill broke out James Watson’s textbook, Molecular Biology of the Gene, and physics together in Santa Barbara, California, after Winblad brought tapes of American theoretical physicist Richard Feynman’s Cornell lectures.
“And on a larger excursion with friends to central Africa, which culminated in beach cottages off the coast of Zanzibar, they were joined by anthropologist Donald Johanson, best known for his work on the human ancestor Lucy, who assisted them in learning about human evolution,” Isaacson wrote in 1997.
Even after their divorce, Bill confided in Isaacson that he sought Winblad’s permission to marry Melinda. Winblad gave her blessing and told Bill that Melinda would be a “healthy match” because “she possessed intellectual stamina,” according to Isaacson’s reporting.
Bill and Melinda married in 1994 and co-founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a multibillion-dollar organization dedicated to eradicating poverty, disease, and inequity worldwide. However, they declared on Monday that they are divorcing after 27 years of marriage.
“We no longer feel that we will flourish as a couple together in this next stage of our lives,” the couple said in a statement.
Winblad is the managing director of Hummer Winblad Investment Partners, which she co-founded in 1989. It was the first venture capital company to focus solely on tech and has launched over 160 enterprise software companies over a 30-year period.
She was also a pioneering technology consultant for Microsoft and continues to support the stock to this day. Microsoft’s shares dropped more than 3% in after-hours trading last week after the company announced its third-quarter financial results. The stock outperformed expectations and was up nearly 15% year over year, and Winblad told CNBC’s Squawk Box on Thursday that the company is “at the start of a massive growth opportunity.”
“I’m not sure why people sold Microsoft stock,” Winblad explained to CNBC. “I believe it is a long-term investment.”